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Response to the British Social Attitudes report 2017

Commenting on the British Social Attitudes survey findings, Sarah Wootton, Chief Executive of Dignity in Dying said:

“Once again the British Social Attitudes survey has found that the overwhelming majority of the public believe people who are dying should have the option of medical help to die. That this support has been consistent for 30 years shows how the law is hopelessly out of step with public attitudes. This disconnect between what dying people want and need, and what the law allows has terrible consequences, with one British person making the difficult journey to Switzerland every 8 days in order to have help to die, and over 300 terminally ill people ending their lives at home in England each year, without medical support or safeguards.

“Clearly we need a change in the law, and in July the courts will have the opportunity to look at this issue in detail when the High Court hears the case of Noel Conway, a terminally ill man with motor neurone disease who is challenging the current law on assisted dying. Noel feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law, and fears that without change he may be forced to suffer against his wishes. The case, supported by Dignity in Dying, will be heard by three judges over five days in the week commencing the 17th of July 2017.”


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Notes to Editor

The British Social Attitudes (BSA) report
The National Centre for Social Research (NatCen) has releases its 34th annual British Social Attitudes report on Wednesday 27th June 2017. The report is also available at: For more information on the report, contact:

The report findings include that:

The BSA survey asked: “Suppose a person has a painful incurable disease. Do you think that doctors should be allowed by law to end the patient’s life, if the patient requests it?” 77% answered that this definitely or probably should be allowed.
The survey also asked if “a person with an incurable and painful disease who will die – for example, someone dying of cancer” should be able to get help to die from a doctor. 78% answered that they should be able to.

About the Noel Conway vs Ministry of Justice case
Noel Conway, 67, from Shrewsbury, was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a form of motor neurone disease, in November 2014. His condition is incurable and terminal – he is not expected to live beyond the next 12 months.

Noel feels that he is prevented from exercising his right to choice and control over his death under the current law. He fears that without a change in the law he may be forced to suffer against his wishes. Noel is bringing this case against the Ministry of Justice to fight for his right to have the option of an assisted death when he is in his final six months of life.

Noel attended the High Court on March 21st to request permission to bring a legal case. On Thursday 30th March 2017, a decision was handed down denying permission for the case to proceed. Noel Conway’s legal team successfully appealed this decision on Tuesday 11th April 2017, meaning the case will proceed to a full hearing at the High Court.

A directions hearing on Monday 22nd May 2017 determined the procedural arrangements for the High Court hearing, namely that it will take place in the week commencing the 17th of July 2017 over five days, heard by three judges. The courts close for summer on Monday 31st July, and reopen on Monday 2nd October. It is anticipated that a decision will be published on the Conway case after the summer recess.

About Dignity in Dying
Dignity in Dying campaigns for greater choice, control and access to services at the end of life. It advocates providing terminally ill adults with the option of an assisted death, within strict legal safeguards, and for universal access to high quality end-of-life care.